It was 1998 and I had just moved to Los Angeles. I decided to work as an extra since the hours were flexible and I thought I might get to meet some Hollywood celebrities.
I’ve only worked as an extra twice. My first experience resulted in me being kicked off the set because I refused to spend my time sitting around waiting for our scenes to be shot. I was caught twice in areas where I did not belong and as a result, was escorted off the set.
The casting agent contacted me about a week later and, because she knew I was a tap dancer, offered me one last opportunity to work as an extra – it was on the set of NBC’s sitcom, The Gregory Hines Show.
She warned me to exercise caution and asked me to ‘behave.’
Although I was only called to work as an extra, I decided to bring my tap shoes.
When Gregory and I greeted each other with hugs, I thought about asking, “Do you remember me?” But if you have to ask, the answer is probably, “No!” and I didn’t want to hear that!
I also didn’t want to waste time reminding him of the previous occasions we had danced together back when I used to tour with my two sisters as part of a group called, Three Sisters Tappin’. We did a couple of performances with him.
Instead, I decided to keep my cool and said nothing. When lunch ended I knew we only had a few hours before shooting our second and final scene.
I remember this day so well because I had never been so nervous and anxious in my life! I knew this experience represented an opportunity for me and I knew I would have to take some risks.
I asked every person working on the set if there was going to be any tap dancing on the show. Every time I asked someone, they’d refer me to the director or to Gregory. When I finally made my way over the director, he told me there were some upcoming dance scenes, but Gregory had the final say on who’d be allowed to join in – I’d have to ask him.
As I sat waiting with the other extras, I could see Gregory walking back and forth from his outside trailer onto the set during lighting and wardrobe changes.
I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to do something. I was consumed with worry, fear and doubt. I thought about how I’d feel if I did nothing. At the same time I was worried about what would happen if I got caught and sent home.
On the verge of a meltdown, I stopped and asked myself: What’s the worst that could happen to me, right now?
If I was caught, I’d never work again as an extra – woopty-doo! That was all the motivation I needed.
I took a deep breath, stood up and walked down the long, dark, narrow corridor which led to Gregory’s trailer. I was shaking with fear and still unsure of what I was going to do. I stood there in the dark for about five minutes. The only sure thing I knew was that Gregory was going to open the door I was blocking.
When the door finally opened we were standing toe to toe.
I gathered my composure, then clearly and confidently spoke: “I understand there may be a tap segment on one of your upcoming episodes. Is that right?”
He answered, “Yes,” and started walking around and away from me.
I couldn’t let him get away from me, so without thinking I said, “Gregory, check it out!”
We were both shocked when I began to dance.
He stopped, watched and nodded his head. All I could think about was what a fool I must look like dancing in green Doc Martens.
Immediately upon stopping I said, “So, Gregory, what do I need to do to get in on this gig?”
He turned and began walking towards the set. He threw up his hands, looked back at me and shouted, “YOU JUST DID!”
He gave me the name of the person I needed to contact, and a week later we were in rehearsals.
The incredible tap dancing episode aired two months later. As you watch these wonderful dance scenes notice, that I’m always standing next to Gregory. No one ever gave us places; I saw it as yet another opportunity to do something bold.
So, you see, opportunity is everywhere and it’s up to us to recognize it and then take some risks to get what we want. Fear is the great immobilizer. The way to creating what we want in life is to let go of fear. It’s not easy but it is necessary.
So how about you? Is there something you can do today to step out of your comfort zone to create something you want?